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RSA releases computer security patent
(IDG) -- Two weeks earlier than expected, RSA Security has released into the public domain an important computer security patent.
Represented by the equation "c = m(e) mod n," the RSA algorithm is the primary building block for SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security on the Web, along with most e-mail encryption, digital certificates, and VPN (virtual private network) software. It resides in Microsoft and Netscape Communications Web browsers and servers, Lotus Development's Notes and Novell's NetWare. The technology can be found in about 90 percent of all products sold with encryption.
"It is probably the most ubiquitous piece of code in the world," said Art Coviello, chief executive officer of RSA Security, which is based in Bedford, Mass. "What we've done throughout the development of software tools...is actually go a long way toward making the Internet a safer place."
The patent on the RSA algorithm was due to expire Sept. 20. On Wednesday, RSA waived its rights to enforce the patent.
"Everyone has known the date has been coming closer; it's more symbolic than important," said John Pescatore, research director for Internet security at technology research firm Gartner. "It is the end of an era, however."
RSA wanted to make a statement with the early release of the patent -- that RSA Security isn't worried about keeping it secret because it knows how to use it better than anyone else.
"It's not so much the equation, but it's how it gets implemented," Coviello said. "We're hoping this will spur people to use the RSA algorithm, and we think we have the best implementation of this algorithm. We've been developing with this technology now for 17 years. This algorithm represents one-tenth of 1 percent of the code in one of our products."
With the formula in the public domain, RSA Security will begin to face competition from other companies developing encryption software based on the RSA algorithm, but experience will continue to provide RSA Security with market strength, Pescatore said. "This kind of equation is like uranium: You need the right tools in order to use it. They do have a near stranglehold on experienced RSA cryptography developers."
RSA Security also released the newest version of its RSA BSAFE Crypto-C security software Wednesday, which the company said could boost encryption performance by 500 percent. The programming tool kit allows software developers to build the RSA equation into their own encryption and security programs. It is expected to be available for HP-UX, Windows 95/98/2000, Windows NT, Sun/Solaris, and Linux at the end of September, starting at $295, plus licensing fees charged to software developers.
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